Census 2011 was the 15th National Census of the country. With a literacy rate of 76.26%, as per the 2011 Census, West Bengal ranked 20th amongst the 36 states and union territories in India in terms of literacy rate. West Bengal’s lowest literacy rate is found in the district of Uttar Dinajpur.
It is one of the most backward districts educationally and economically. Muslim population in this district is much higher than the state average while the literacy level of the Muslims is much below. There is a large variation in literacy rate between Muslim and Non – Muslim in this district. So, the education of this religious community requires serious attention.
Uttar Dinajpur has nine Vidhan Sabha constituencies named Chopra, Islampur, Gaolpokher, Chakulia, Karandighi, Kaliayaganj, Raiganj, Itahar, and Hemtabad.
The bottom two blocks, Goapokher I and Goalpokher II (Chakulia), are not sufficiently endowed with educational Institutions and no colleges. The drop out rate at the secondary level is extremely high in villages. Only parents who can afford college education send their kids outside, and low-income families usually discontinue their studies in the absence of Government degree colleges in this area. If anybody wishes to continue, college degrees have to travel a long distance of around 50-60 km.
The 34 years long, left front Government also neglected this region. Chakulia’s constituency still has an MLA from the left front.
In an interview, Ali Imran Ramz said that, “When the left front was in power, our government had sanctioned a government degree college in this region, but we failed to choose the land for setting up the college. Unfortunately, in 2011, we lost the Assembly election. When Mamata Banerjee came into power, I talked to her on this concern, and she said that the Government has already sanctioned. It is really disappointing to find no mention of Chakulia and Goalpokher II”.
The MoS, Ghulam Rabbani, belongs to Gaolpokher I and he represents this constituency in the Assembly, he personally knows this region very well but never assured the people of this area that a college would be set up. Education is an essential and powerful weapon to change the society. The unemployment rate is high here, and 15 above ages prefer to go outside, work in a factory or other hazardous activities, and below 14 years of age works in hotels, dhabas, shops, tea shops, and so on.
Various government laws like the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and many other similar acts prohibit the employment of children below a certain age. The poor quality of education in rural schools will inevitably affect the employability of rural youth, and it could be seen.
Mohammad Munir, a native of Chakulia, said, “I could not continue my studies because I’m not in a position to get enrol outside”. Many like him discontinued their studies after class 12th due to lack of a government degree college. The whole district has only a few colleges, and to attend college, students belonging to this region need at least 100-150 fare charges.
Many girls in this area have been forced to discontinue their education as they can not travel 100 km daily to attend the nearest college to this region, and parents feel insecure too to send them anywhere far for education. Many girls had to give up their dreams and sit back at home for this reason.
“Leaders kept promising for many years. We demand that the government set up a college for higher studies in our area; if they do so, we will get an opportunity to continue our higher studies,” said a student.
Education in rural areas suffers from poor planning and defective policy implementation. While making plans, we need to be sensitive to area-specific problems. Some policies aim at balanced regional development. The criteria for financial aid to break structural backwardness needs to be chosen, and the Government should be more severe in identifying problems of districts and concerned areas. Some eyes are still dreaming, and I hope that MLAs and Government will help in the careers of those who are wishing to pursue their studies by setting up a government degree college in this region.
Featured images are for representational purposes only.